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Building a Strong, Sustainable Domain Name Industry - With Integrity

This week, I had the privilege of presenting at NamesCon on behalf of the Domain Name Association (DNA)—in my position as Chair of the Board—to provide an update on our activities and an assessment of our progress as an industry in light of the goals of the DNA.

In summary, there is still a long way to go with many challenges to address. Despite this, there is much to be excited about and incredible opportunity for our combined success.

Below is a transcript of my speech. I welcome feedback and comments and encourage everyone involved in the domain name industry to become a member of the DNA to help contribute to shaping the future of our industry.

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DNA Speech at NamesCon
Monday 11 January
Presented by Adrian Kinderis, Chair of the Board

Welcome to all sectors of the domain name industry; Registry operators, back end service providers, Registrars, Resellers, Registrants—including of course portfolio holders—and affiliated partners.

Great to see the industry coming together, as one group on a large scale to share ideas.

Let’s be clear, the point of the Domain Name Association is to help bring together the industry on a formal and structured way—to create a framework of industry-wide collaboration to drive the industry forward.

The DNA’s mission is: “To promote the interest of the domain name industry by advocating the use, adoption, and expansion of domain names as the primary tool for users to navigate the Internet.”

It is fair to say we have much to do on this front. We’re kidding ourselves if we think otherwise.

I want to discuss two issues today that I believe are inhibiting our progress as an industry group.

The first of these is the notion of best practice. For too long this industry has turned a blind eye to less than scrupulous activities that have plagued our industry.

Bad actors have tarnished the perception of our industry. This may have been acceptable when it was a few insiders first grasping with a fledgling product in the early nineties but as we can see by the attendance and diversity of participation here today, we are now front and centre of the Internet.

The very definition of what we do makes us accountable to the integrity of the Internet and those consumers that interact with it.

These practices from the few bad actors have led to frustration from consumers. We have not served the best interests of our consumers at all times, and this has to change. This of course has led to increased scrutiny from those that would want to see greater regulation in our space.

Is all regulation bad? No. Unfortunately, we are now seeing government and law enforcement overreach and expand their remit. This, in turn, impacts each and every one of our businesses.

At the DNA we are convinced that as an industry we can go a long way to achieving the goals of these governments and law enforcement through self-regulation.

We are working on projects like the Healthy Domain Initiative, which you will hear more about this week. This initiative strives to set processes and metrics towards building a safer more predictable domain name environment.

Ultimately, we as an industry can no longer tolerate the bad actors. We must work with bodies like ICANN to highlight their activities. It is time to grow up and show that we can regulate ourselves and build a strong sustainable industry with integrity.

If we don’t, people will find alternatives.

Which brings me to the next issue to discuss with you today. I don’t want to sound too Star Wars here when I say, the domain wars must be over. The bickering and infighting have to stop. The coms, the not-coms, the IDNs, the ccTLDs vs gTLDs; this must stop.

It is clear that without the addition of gTLDs and IDNs, consumers would be looking for alternatives. Let’s face it, as an industry we have been lucky.

We have stumbled through the last 20 years without a collective strategy or cohesion. We have been busy fighting each other and churning through clients. I want more of the pie rather than helping to create a bigger pie.

Outside forces have not had a massive impact on us, yet. QR Codes have tried. Apps are trying. I understand the need to protect portfolios and market position but all domain names are created equal and infighting and bickering only slows us down in a fast paced market.

We have already started to see the speculators and former ‘haters’ of the new gTLD zeitgeist now purchasing domain names in large quantities. This is a positive turn around.

As an industry we should be concerned in the utility and use of all domain names—including IDNs and ccTLDs. Our biggest concerns on this front are now universal awareness and universal acceptance. Making sure consumers understand the choices that are available to them and when they do purchase them that they work in a uniform manner. Once again, a core tenant of the Domain Name Association.

We have seen other technologies snapping at our heels. We are a young industry and if we don’t innovate we die.

We are guilty of self-promotion and playing on our fortunes. The most recent example of this is the recent success in the Chinese market. Most of us here have felt a bump in our businesses in the last quarter thanks to the Chinese market. But was it amazing management, incredible foresight or just dumb luck?

The point is we need to raise our heads and be constantly focussed on the opportunities and threats on the horizon and that is why you need the DNA. However, we can’t do this work without a strong membership base.

The last year has seen the DNA have many achievements:

  • Launch of the new DNA website to allow for features such as blogging and social media integration
  • A revamped and effective social media campaign promoting innovative uses of domain names
  • We built a new website called inthewild.domains, illustrating the uptake of domain names globally in a creative tumblr format
  • Launch of the DNA University, an educational resource where members can learn and gain from other DNA members that have successfully navigated the startup and operation of a domain name registry or registrar
  • We developed a Style Guide and Talking Points to help industry members describe domain names, new domain name extensions and the opportunities available through the industry in a consistent, memorable manner
  • Initiation of the Healthy Domains Initiative (HDI) to address the ongoing need for a domain environment that is protected from abuse and unnecessary regulation or interference
  • Driving Universal Acceptance; removing one of the key technical barriers to TLD growth.
  • Tackling key topics such as Real Name Verification, Whois support for international contacts, and Universal Acceptance in the Reg Ops world

However, we still have much to do.

We cannot and must not live for the moment. It must look long-term. Building a strong association with a broad membership base ensures we look to the future and protect our substantial investments.

If you’re not a member, I ask that you consider it and seek out one of the many Board Members that are here this week for further information. Ask GoDaddy, Google, Neustar, 101Domain and the many others why they joined and why you should too.

So as we start this new year, a year filled with promise and opportunity, I challenge the industry to come together.

With the biggest brands in the world now becoming colleagues rather than clients, with major cities joining our ranks as partners, the industry is shifting. The world is watching and we must now work together to act with integrity, to increase awareness and drive common functionality and ultimately ensure our success.

Thank you.

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